Conflict in Sudan: What Can Be Done
"Men want power, women want peace."
Former British Ambassador to Sudan, Alan Goutly quoted this statement from a Sudanese woman in an answer to my question: How important is it to include women in the peace process between Sudan and South Sudan? Such a simple statement sums up what international leaders are now recognizing as an essential element to the peace process: to include women's voices.
Yesterday the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace held a panel discussion with updates about the ongoing conflict between Sudan and South Sudan. After decades of war, South Sudan became its own nation not even a year ago when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in July 2011. Ambassador Princeton Lyman of the United States, former Ambassador Alan Goulty of the United Kingdom, and Marina Ottaway of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, all gave a tremendous amount of insight into the current conflict and strategies that the United States and the international community can take to avoid an all out war.
I was afraid the issue of including women peacekeepers would not be brought up at all, until Ambassador Lyman stated concern about the fact that almost every peace talk he arranged did not have even one woman included. He stated he could not even count the number of times men have stormed out of the room, unwilling to continue peace talks, while "including more women will change the atmosphere" and help the process.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an excellent point in a December 2011 speech about the first-ever United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. She stated:
[Including women in peace processes] truly does cut to the heart of our national security and the security of people everywhere, because the sad fact is that the way the international community tries to build peace and security today just isn't getting the job done. Dozens of active conflicts are raging around the world, undermining regional and global stability, and ravaging entire populations. And more than half of all peace agreements fail within five years.
This is not to say women are more peaceful or that men are aggressive and stubborn. But it points to the need to improve the way peace processes are taking place, such as bringing more voices and perspectives to the table. To exclude an entire group-the other half of the population of an entire society where cultural and political perspectives vary-is to waste talents and opportunities for peace processes to be more successful. Secretary Clinton once cited an anecdote about the 2006 peace negotiations in Darfur. The male negotiators were deadlocked over the control of a particular river "until local women, who have the experience of fetching water and washing clothes, pointed out that the river had already dried up."
That is a perfect example of how in the midst of crippling deadlocked disagreement, new perspectives from women are essential to creating a strong and lasting peace. That was just a deadlocked debate over a single river-think of the effect women will have on the macro scale in ending wars, conflict, and boarder disputes. Leymah Gbowee, for example, led a mass movement of women which brought the Second Liberian Civil War to an end in 2003. This group of women confronted the now-convicted war criminal Charles Taylor and locked peace negotiators in their conference room, essentially forcing them to reach a peace agreement.
The deep rooted tension between Sudan and South Sudan is not an easy problem to solve, as the panelists showed. For many of the remaining Sudanese people, war with the other is almost routine, and forgiveness of the other side is almost unthinkable. There are various complex elements to this conflict: two nations sharing one major source of revenue (their oil reserves), boarder lines that were never solidified, the divided populations living between those disputed borders who are not sure which side they belong on, and the internal conflicts within each of these nations.
There are other reasons why women would be a solution to peace between nations. One major reason is, as Secretary Clinton explains, "when women participate in peace processes, they focus discussion on issues like human rights, justice, national reconciliation, and economic renewal that are critical to making peace." It only makes sense that women-who are marginalized in society and often suffer the worst in war-would be the strongest advocates of peace.
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